A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

Archive for March, 2012

Super Thriller #5 Murder on the Line

"OK Jessica, which shadow puppet shape am I doing now?"

Um, this cover. I thought it was so suspenseful as a kid, but looking at it now, I’m very disappointed. Jessica went nuts with the Aqua Net again and then apparently fell asleep on it. Then she woke up, borrowed Liz’s blouse and Olivia’s skirt, and went off to work to play shadow puppets with some scrawny dude with a douchebag hairdo, on someone’s stucco house with a fuckin’ rain gutter on it.

Yeah! This is the last of our detective-style Super Thrillers – to the best of my knowledge anyway. I don’t know anything about the other Thrillers, besides their not seeming detective-like, but we’ll get to those eventually. The timeline here IS CRAZY. According to the back of the book, the twins are spending their second summer as interns at the Sweet Valley News. That should make them seventeen, but SVH doesn’t give a fuuuuuuuck. They’re still sixteen, and the first pages tell us this is only their second week at the internship. The actual story doesn’t mention this being their second summer, but like this is something their parents just recently made them do. The twins have the Jeep, Liz has Todd again (but he’s off camping in the Canadian Rockies with his family), and Sam Woodruff is nowhere in sight. Oh, but some of our old favorites are back, like the reporter Seth Miller (aka mystery writer Lester Ames). Dan Weeks and Anita Solarz are back as well. There are a couple of new people, too – news editor Bill Anderson, whom Jessica crushes on but admits is too old (he’s 30), Bob Carlisle the sports editor, and a new lady reporter named Katherine Francis who’s only mentioned to give us some extra estrogen on this team, if you ask me. They realized we were on to them about it being the old boys club. Crazy Darcy Kaymen is gone. Thank God, she was so fucking annoying.

Lila’s dad is busy getting a new building, Fowler Tower, developed in downtown Sweet Valley right across the street and down some from the Western Building, where the twins work. The construction has messed up the phone lines so that they keep getting crossed. Jessica’s job suddenly becomes a lot more fun as a result. She finds that probably 2/3 of the time that she picks up the phone, she can hear someone else’s conversation from the building, but they can’t hear her. It turns out that a lot of these people spend their time slacking the fuck off. (More about these later on) Jessica spends her days distracting herself from her work by eavesdropping on these calls. Of course, she tells Liz about them too, who scolds her, but is naturally more interested than she’d like us to think she is. Jess and Liz even spy some of Jessica’s targets around the building and have a good laugh.

Jessica also spots a handsome young blondie working in the Bank Building across the street and starts following him around trying to catch his eye. But when she lets her purse “accidentally” fall off her shoulder onto the ground, he walks right past her.

Then things take a shocking turn! Jessica hears a phone call one day in which a man called “Greenback” tells a woman named “Coyote” to deliver “red fish up the coast highway to point seven.” Jessica’s imagination goes wild. Liz thinks Jessica is crazy and it’s a delivery company from the building looking to drop off some seafood. ….the fuck? Bahahaha. Jessica hears a couple more phone calls between Greenback and another dude named Rock, and in the last one, Greenback orders Rock to “take care” of “her” and threatens him with “…if they don’t find her body floating soon, they’ll find yours.” Ohhh shit! Jessica runs to tell Liz, who responds with: “…it’s just incredibly unlikely that you’ve accidentally uncovered a murder plot unfolding in downtown Sweet Valley, of all places. I mean, really.” Liz, have you been sleepwalking for the last four Super Thrillers?! There’s no mention of how Jessica just saw such a murder plot unfold in front of her very eyes a few Thrillers ago. I guess these aren’t supposed to match up with one another after all.

Bill Anderson is in charge of the interns and very enthusiastic about their journalistic careers. Because Jessica is always in space either staring at the cute boy in the Bank Building or listening in to the phone lines, Bill starts giving her grunt work away from her desk, like doing research and filing in the “newspaper morgue” room (where they store all the old articles). Then Seth Miller sells a new book and I guess he got an advance because he suddenly has some cash and takes the twins out to expensive Chez Sam for lunch. Liz and Seth decide to get Jessica to help with an article on the upcoming Valley Mall expansion, so that she can get out of the office more, but Jessica is in space and barely listening, then dashes out of the restaurant as soon as Seth pays. Liz chides her, but Jessica explains she was just hoping to catch up with “Mr. Gorgeous” from the Bank Building, because he really gave a shit the last time she ran into him. Jessica is unsuccessful in catching his eye yet again.

Jessica spends another afternoon eavesdropping and Bill catches her (again) and sends her off with a dictaphone to do some transcribing. Jessica decides the dictaphone will also come in handy for recording Greenback’s phone calls. Later, she listens in again as she proofreads, then later she overhears Rock telling Greenback that “it’s done” and that he got “all ten packets” off of her. Greenback says “she” deserved it because she was holding out on them. Now Jessica is really freaked. She is sure they are talking about murder, and fuck whatever Liz tries to say about her “overactive imagination”. Then Lila calls to ask Jessica to skip out of work for the afternoon for the beach. Jessica agrees and leaves a note behind claiming she’s out doing “research” and meets up with Lila at Castle Cove. Hey, Castle Cove is the beach from book 5 (All Night Long). When they get there, they see a crowd gathered around a DEAD BODY, a girl floating in the water. Jessica blacks out and falls onto the sand in front of everyone.

Jessica is clearly in shock later that day – she’s cold and shivering and can’t eat – but her parents don’t seem too terribly concerned about her. She goes to the police station to report the phone calls she heard; a Detective Jason there is surprisingly receptive to her story, but warns her to keep her knowledge a secret for her own safety, and to keep in touch with him about what she hears so they can try to track Greenback down. Jessica feels like a big shot helping crack a murder case and thinks maybe she’ll get her own byline when she helps solve the case. Everyone has had their memory wiped, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and forgotten that she has already accomplished such a thing once this summer (or last summer …).

Seth takes Liz to a police news conference about the murdered girl. Seth has a brand new flashy car, oooooo. Well, isn’t he a mystery novelist? Didn’t he just say he wrote a new story recently? Makes sense. I get the feeling we’re supposed to be curious about how he’s got all this money, but duuuuuh. Anyway, the police just say they don’t know who the murder victim is yet, but that she was strangled before being dumped in the water. Everyone freaks the fuck out. MURRRRDER! In SWEET VALLEY!

At home, the Wakefields grill out. Adam Maitland, Steve’s college friend, is still living with them for the summer, with no mention of the horrible trauma he went through in the first Thriller. While the twins, Steve, and Adam hang out eating nachos, someone keeps calling the house and breathing in Jessica’s ear before hanging up. Jessica is freaked out, but Liz assures her it’s probably just some dude who has a crush on her and is too shy to say anything. Really Liz? You’d really say that after all the menacing hang-up calls you guys received in pretty much every other Thriller? Steve assures Jessica there’s no possible way Greenback could know that she was listening to him and Jessica thinks about how logical Steven is and what a good lawyer he will be some day. Right, because there’s no possible way he knows it’s Jessica, given that she’s been caught eavesdropping by multiple people and hasn’t exactly been discrete about it.

Back at the Western Building, Jessica goes down to the lobby to get a chef salad and apple juice from the coffee shop. A strange man with long blond hair, a baseball cap, and dark sunglasses rides down in the elevator with her. He sits at the table next to her as she eats, but doesn’t order anything, just stares at her. Jessica takes one bite of her salad, then freaks out and runs out into the hallway where she collides with cute blonde boy from the Bank Building across the street. It doesn’t occur to her to ask him what he’s doing in the Western Building, and he barely notices her. Ha ha ha! He still doesn’t give a fuck. But! Once she’s back upstairs, she sees him across the street at his desk again; this time he notices her noticing him and smiles at her. She writes her name and office # on a big piece of paper and holds it up in the window, and he calls her. His name is Ben Donovan, he thinks Jessica is hot, and he offers to take her out to get some “appetizers” at the Leeward Isles up the street after work. Although Jessica is of course very excited; her enthusiasm dims at the Isles as he drones on about his accountant job and all the “quiet” things he likes doing. Ha ha! Reminds me of when Jessica dated Sheffield Eastman from Todd’s old private school. Jess is totally bored and gives him her phone # out of politeness afterwards, but doesn’t expect him to call her. From time to time she runs into him again, and he tries to talk to her or ask her out every time, but she always blows him off.

The next morning, Liz and Jess arrive at work to find everyone buzzing about: the dead girl has been identified as 17-year-old Tracy Fox, a runaway from San Diego. Seth and Anita go off to the station to join the press conference or whatever while Seth leaves Liz behind to call Tracy’s parents for the details. Liz is nervous about upsetting the Foxes, but of course, her kind, caring nature comes out over the phone even though she barely speaks two words, and Mrs. Fox just goes ahead and babbles on about what happened to Tracy. Tracy had been sneaking out and going to parties with kids who did drugs for the past year. Then Mrs. Fox found a packet of cocaine in Tracy’s dresser drawer. They had a big blowup about it, and Tracy ran away the next day. Liz hangs up and cries and she and Jessica talk about what happened to Regina and how drugs are bad, mmmkay. Then Seth and Anita get back, all excited because a packet of cocaine was found on Tracy’s dead body. Hey “Rock” … you missed one of those “packets”, ass. Greenback is gonna put you under for this! You’ll be sleepin’ with the fishies, see! (I couldn’t help it)

Rose the receptionist quits rather suddenly, and Bill switches Jessica’s regular desk phone out for the switchboard phone that Rose used so that she can take all the incoming calls instead. It keeps Jessica really busy, but she finds that when she dials her old extension she can still listen in to the crossed lines. She is alarmed when she hears another Greenback conversation in which Rock wants to “take care of the nosy girl” and Greenback insists he has his eye on her and he knows she isn’t spying today. Jessica, time to get a clue. Instead Jessica notices how much money Seth suddenly has – he’s just moved into the luxury Pacific Heights condo complex – and decides the only way he could get so much money is by being a drug dealer. Hello? He’s a published mystery writer! Then she goes into Seth’s office and hears a wire report coming in over his telex machine. (Ah, the good old days of the successful print newspaper) She heard that same noise over the phone during one of the Greenback conversations. She doesn’t stop to consider that it could be someone else in the office. She’s sure Seth is Greenback. But Greenback and Rock also mention that they have a “buddy” with the SV police, so now Jessica is afraid Detective Jason is a dirty cop and lies to him saying she hasn’t been able to hear anything lately. She also learns there is an undercover cop trying to bring Greenback’s drug ring down. The “mole” at the SV police station isn’t sure who the undercover cop is.

Liz personally takes it upon herself to solve Tracy Fox’s murder in order to prevent other kids from ending up like her or Regina. Oh, sweet idealistic youth. Sorry, jaded 30-year-old lady cutting in here. Anyway, Liz sees a yearbook picture of Tracy Fox and realizes she has seen her before, but can’t figure out where. Then she gets a tip from an artist at Moon Beach in Big Mesa (where Liz learned to surf in The New Elizabeth!). The artist, an old man called Old Riley, tells her he used to see Tracy walking there a good deal and that she once met with a man. He sketches both Tracy and the man for Liz and gives her the drawings. She shows them to Jessica, who gets Liz to admit that Old Riley’s drawing of Tracy’s male friend does look a bit like Seth. Then Liz suddenly realizes where she’d seen Tracy before – right there in the Western Building lobby! They figure out the date that she was there, and formulate a plan to look for her in the guest registry. Jessica distracts the no-nonsense, tabloid-reading lobby receptionist, Ms. LePage, by yelling that she just saw Michael Jackson getting into a car down the street. As Ms. LePage tears off with Jessica, Liz flips through the guest register to the date she thinks she saw Tracy. Tracy checked in there to see Seth Miller, and someone checked her out with different handwriting. Uh oh! Not good for Seth. Ms. LePage comes back to her desk fully convinced that she saw MJ riding away in a car … hahaha.

The twins sneak into the office late at night to snoop in Seth’s office for evidence, against Liz’s wishes. They don’t find shit, but Bill catches them. Liz lies and says they were picking up a file for Seth. Bill gives Jessica a dictaphone tape he found among the tapes he’d given her to transcribe. Since that tape was unlabeled, he figured it might be hers. Jess realizes it’s the tape she made of Greenback and Rock’s conversation, but if Bill knows what’s on it, he doesn’t say anything. On the way home, the girls are followed by a dude in an SUV. As Liz makes a sudden maneuver to get away from him, Jessica sees it’s the same guy who was bothering her in the coffee shop the other day.

Whereas Jessica is absolutely convinced of mild-mannered Seth’s guilt and ready to go to the police, logical Liz wants hard answers. She goes to Seth with her concerns and he doesn’t understand how Tracy could’ve signed in to see him since he never met with her. Then he remembers getting a phone call from a scared-sounding anonymous girl who wanted to give him a big story, but never showed up to give it to him. It must’ve been Tracy! Seth then tells Liz he has information that will show that someone else in the building is the real killer. He just isn’t quite ready to give it to the police yet. Liz balks at going to Seth’s condo to look at it, and he agrees to meet her at the Box Tree Cafe instead. Meanwhile, Jessica has decided Bill is safe to confide in, and she tells him all about Seth and Greenback. Bill agrees that the evidence adds up, and he encourages Jess to meet him back at the News office at 9, where they’ll go to the police together. Jess somehow doesn’t consider the oddity of Bill’s wanting to meet her alone in a deserted office building at night when they could just meet at the police station. She is too giddy at the thought of having poor Seth jailed, and convinced that Bill is the undercover cop.

Liz runs into Rose, the former receptionist, at the supermarket, who tells her that Bill abruptly fired her. Then Liz meets Seth at the Box Tree Cafe and looks at his evidence – that in every city Bill ever lived in, there was a drug-related murder of a young person right before he moved somewhere else. He also was arrested for all kinds of other charges in each city under a different name. Bill is Greenback! Liz then remembers that Jessica is supposed to be meeting with Bill at that very moment … They call the police from a pay phone and Detective Jason answers and blows them off, refusing to send help to the Western Building. They hang up on him and go over there themselves.

Jessica heads into the News building and catches Bill bending over something on his desk which he shoves aside. He acts and looks funny and is suddenly in no rush to go to the police. Then she sees a vial of coke on his desk – it’s the first time she’s ever seen it, but she’s “heard” about what it’s supposed to look like – and realizes he’s high as a kite. She tries to make an excuse to leave, but he lunges at her. Jessica runs away and turns the light out so he can’t see what she’s doing. She ends up in her own office trying to call the police, but the phone is dead. Bill catches up with her, flips the light on, and waves his tie at her menacingly. He drags Jessica up to the roof where he shoves a packet of cocaine in her pocket and orders her to walk off the edge of the roof. He’s going to make her death look like a drug-related suicide and then frame Seth for the deaths of Jessica and Tracy.

Liz and Seth arrive at the building where they collide with Ben Donovan from across the street. Ben reveals himself to be the undercover cop. They all get up to the roof where they interrupt Bill just as he’s about to force Jessica off the edge of the roof. Bill and Ben start fighting close to the edge of the roof while Seth “hovers” over them, looking for a chance to dive in and help. Hysterical! I can see him just standing there going “Uh…uh…oh god … uh….” Bill takes a swing at Ben to knock him off the roof, but Ben ducks and Bill flies off the roof instead and dies … and that’s that.

The following Monday, everything is back to normal. Jess goes to work and feels like a hero. Rose is back. Seth explains he got all his money because his first Lester Ames novel is doing well and his publisher gave him a huge advance for five more books. Yes, I think that should have been at least a good guess from the get-go, but no one thought of it. He told Jessica and Liz that he had just written a new story and we knew he was a mystery novelist. Wouldn’t that make sense?

Ben has Detective Jason “detained for questioning” and explains he knew Bill was Greenback hence why he was camped out in the Bank Building. He asked Jessica out both because he likes her and because he was hoping she could give him more info on Bill. Why didn’t he fucking ask about it then, when they were having that boring lunch? “Rock” was the guy with long hair who followed Jessica. His real name was Kevin Stone – get it? Stone! Rock! Haha! – and he had been begging Bill to let him kill Jessica for a long time. The girl Jessica heard on the first call – “Coyote” – was most likely Tracy Fox. There’s some more talk of how evil drugs are and how teenagers should not go down that path, and then all is well and good again with the twins’ lives and we can pretend all this never happened.

WTF? Elizabeth accuses Jessica’s imagination of “working overtime.” Is it just me, or was that phrase used a lot in these books? Not just SVH but Twins too … “her imagination is working overtime” I just recall reading that phrase a lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever used it otherwise.

Greenback also has associates named “Hero” and “Chopper” … LMFAO!!! GET TO DA CHOPPA ~Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator”

Awww … Michael Jackson was still alive when this book came out.

I seem to remember that Seth had published several books as Lester Ames. But this book changes that and says he’d only published one so far, and he’s only just now becoming successful. That’s bullshit.

Check out the phone puns on the back cover: “When the twins start to get threatening calls at home, it’s time to put the killer’s plans on hold before he disconnects them forever!”

The fun stuff … those non-drug-related phone calls! First Jessica listens in to a lady named Maggie who is constantly whining to her jillion friends about how she’s cheating on her old bald husband, Frank, with a young, penniless hottie named Craig. Frank is filthy rich, so Maggie can’t bring herself to leave him because he buys her shit like a sapphire bracelet and a condo in Vail. If he’s so rich, why the hell do you work in the Western Building, Maggie? Maggie and Craig meet at the country club and eventually he begs her to run away with him. Then Frank starts to get suspicious. We never hear about how all that ends. There’s also a crazy lady who orders all kinds of junk, like neon-colored spandex outfits, and six (yes, six) poodle cardigans from a home shopping network. Jessica and Elizabeth run into a lady wearing a poodle cardigan in the elevator and nearly die laughing. Jess sees her again later wearing a giant gaudy pearl necklace that she had ordered off the network and thinks smugly to herself that she knows the pearls are fake. Plus! A nerdy boy named “Junior” who’s always on the phone with his mother getting barked at about what he should do with his life! Despite her constant bossing of him, he loves her and has flower bouquets sent to her house. The parts of the book with these phone conversations are a lot of fun.

Truth be told, I really like this book. I thought it was ten times better than any of the other Super Thrillers. It’s fun and a breezy, quick read, and there’s a notable absence of annoying fucking characters like Darcy and that nosy Mr. Beckwith. Plus, having the focus not be on stupid Liz for a change is always awesome.

At one point, Jessica is so freaked out by all that’s happening that she voluntarily misses a slammin’ Winston Egbert party. I think she was just looking for an excuse not to go and watch him do magic tricks all night.

Random characters: There’s another intern named Beth, and a subscription manager named Gwen. Not that we will ever see any of these people again. I’m kind of sad. Despite the shittiness of most of these detective stories, I like the idea of them overall.

When Jessica meets Lila at the beach, Lila loans her a bikini to wear. It’s her oldest one. Jessica accuses Lila of not wanting Jess to look better than her, and Lila just smirks at her. Hahaha!

From the Mouth of Lila Fowler: “Don’t you just wish you were me? I can hang out at the beach every single day.”

Coming up next: Lila stars in a sad tale.

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